2003-06-06 / Columnists

Sprayview Sticks Stones

by Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum
Sprayview Sticks Stones by Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum


Shock of shocks, the Mayor did not come to any Rockaway Peninsula beach opening ceremony whatever this year. In the old days, the perpetual Parks Commissioner Henry Stern would show up. You can see him in this 1992 photo, standing behind podium in white shirt and tie while Mario Russo (former sanitation Chair of Community Board #14) would be exclaiming (as in the photo) how great the beach season to come would be. Behind him is Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer. Opposite Mr. Russo and the Commissioner is Councilman Walter Ward. I could have joined Community Board 14 with Councilmanic support but chose an independent track extended even to topsoil extraction for mosquito control! Note with the city opening to the public a 3 pier section (only to be extended in the future) of a Hudson River Park with city and state commitments of 100 million dollars each – not probably with some beach section – why should he appear (and since Coney Island has been earmarked for genuine beach promotion and with recreational economic assets it already has in abundance!).

In the 1960’s – 1970’s I met Mr. Russo and John J. Fetscher of the Hammel-Seaside Civics Association, as two civics activists, and occasionally gently ribbed them on some issues. John supported Dubos Point in writing and helped push the cause forward on a local level. Both were doing good things for the Rockaway community, as a Wave article search would show.

Mr. Russo was also President of the Arverne Civics Association and had interest in interest like rotting bulk-heading reconstruction for new housing.

But on the issue of bulk-heading dirt, which disappeared, he remained relatively silent. He, like the rest of the Board members after one of my monthly rants, would just look at me and that was that. Over the years in private conversation there was some encouragement though. But he did want to shake my hand a lot, kissed me on the forehead, and even threatened to kick me in the knee if I didn’t sit down and keep quiet at some candidate’s night event. Whether I should have been more worried or not I one thing. Another is why someone in a local government agency supported by the former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman would feel free to be threatening and there was no one to complain to! While he is not here to defend himself, this column is for the record.

The Wave does not print all the photos submitted (or none at all) as hopefully these will get in with the U.s. army Corps of Engineers map that shows the Dubos Point creeks that need opening for wetlands restoration with mosquito control byproduct. Commissioner Stern of the Giuliani administration was not helpful in funding the opening nor has been other officials and bureaucrats. Other parts of the City have gotten such funding as restoration projects and there are lists to show this!

Its relevant to make a correction in the May 23 column that Rockaway obtained no recognizable benefit from Coastal Zone Management dollars the State got some of which it delivered to the City (paragraph 8). Also its Corresponding Secretary of the Arverne Community Team (ACT) Sarah Colson’s pensive expression that is being referred to (paragraph 12).

And in the May 30 column the reference is to the Koch (not rich) Mayoralty that did not include significant recreational-economic development in the former Oceanview mini-city proposal for the renewal areas, e.g. At­lantis. It’s in Riverhead, Long Island, and has a Marine Park theme-aquarium included (paragraph 7). Also there is no complete environmental impact statement for Sanitation Department lot cleaning according to the Office of Management and budget that co-ad­ministers the HUD lot-cleaning grant with the Department of City Planning (paragraph 13).

So Rockaway has certainly earmarked for interesting stuff and not been treated as coastal zone as much as some activists have tried! Some further research of files on coastal matters is from the minutes of the Ja­maica Bay Task Force of 1999 (and a jump from the 1983 reference in the previous column) as follows: "Water­front Revitalization Plan of the NYC Department of City Planning by Omie Medford Ryan (I believe she re­tired with no replacement). The WRP is a compilation of policies on Coastal Zone Management for New York City. The original plan (Comprehensive Water­front Plan) published in 1992 included 56 policies were revised as 10 policy formats, which address all waterfront issues including housing. Although the WRP is a citywide planning document, it covers all of Ja­maica Bay as a planning entity. The document has been submitted to the New York State Department of State (agency in charge of Coastal Zone Management in New York State) and to the National Oceanic and Atmos­pheric Adminis­tration (NOAA; federal agency responsible for Coastal Zone management) for their approval. In re­vising the original Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, the Department of City Planning worked with Com­mun­ity Boards, which will be involved with the implementation stage. R. Yamuder from the Queens Borough President’s office offered to give the Department of City Planning assistance in assembling local stakeholders during implementation."

As best recalled I kept the City from splitting Jamaica Bay into a right half and a left in its Jamaica Bay treatment. John Baxter, activist and theater producer/actor, says the City has received more than 5.5 million dollars the State New York State Department of State got the NOAA for planning waterfronts (that I know of). If its true what a shame that more of it has not come to revitalize the Rockaway coastal zone!


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